MBI researchers Jie Yan and Timothy Saunders awarded grants from the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO)

Two researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have independently been awarded 2016 Research Grants from the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO).

logo-hfsp-100-blueThe HFSPO Research Grants fund innovative, cutting-edge projects at the frontiers of the life sciences, under the umbrella theme of “Complex mechanisms of living organisms”. In particular, they reward novel international collaborations between scientists from different disciplines to tackle biological questions that cannot be answered by individual laboratories.

The 2016 competition for HFSP Research Grants was highly competitive. Out of 871 initial applications, only 32 projects were funded, an eventual success rate of 3.7%. Remarkably, two of the successful research teams included scientists based at the Mechanobiology Institute, NUS.


Assoc. Prof. Jie Yan of the Mechanobiology Institute and Department of Physics

Jie Yan | Mechanobiology Institute, Department of Physics, NUS

Assoc. Prof. Jie Yan of the Mechanobiology Institute and Department of Physics shares a Program Grant with colleagues Prof. Anna Akhmanova (Netherlands), Dr. Benjamin Goult (UK), and Assoc. Prof. Guy Tanentzapf (Canada) for their project “Control of cell migration and polarity by a mechanosensory complex linking adhesion and microtubules”. This team brings together distinct sets of expertise including cell biology, genetic analysis, structural biology, and single-molecule biophysics to investigate the molecular cross-talk between integrin-based adhesions and the microtubule network in determining cell movement.

Timothy Saunders | Mechanobiology Institute, Department of Biological Science, NUS

Asst. Prof. Timothy Saunders of the Mechanobiology Institute and Department of Biological Science shares a Young Investigator Grant with colleagues Asst. Prof. Martin Loose (Austria), Dr. Sebastian Maurer (Spain), and Dr. Ivo Telley (Portugal) for their project “Reconstitution of cell polarity and axis determination in a cell-free system”. In order to understand how a specific family of proteins dynamically establish cell polarity, the team will use advanced cell extraction techniques to develop a system that will enable unprecedentedly detailed exploration of the key biological process of polarization.


Asst. Prof. Timothy Saunders of the Mechanobiology Institute and Department of Biological Science

In total, both research teams will receive more than $2.5 million USD combined from HFSPO, over the course of three years. Only three previous researchers from Singapore have received the prestigious HFSPO grants. These are Prof. Young-Tae Chang (Department of Chemistry, 2010), Prof. Chwee Teck Lim (Mechanobiology Institute and Department of Biomedical Engineering, 2012), and Assoc. Prof. Markus Wenk (Department of Biochemistry and Department of Biological Sciences, 2015). Notably, Dr. Saunders is the first Singaporean-based scientist to win a HFSPO Young Investigator Grant, which is only eligible for research teams where each team member is within the first five years after establishing an independent laboratory.

Singapore joined the HFSPO as a full member state in July 2014, allowing scientists located in Singapore to act as the Principal Applicant for Research Grants and compete for other HFSP funding programmes. Since becoming a full member, Singapore has taken an active role in developing the Human Frontier Science Program, and will continue to do so in 2016 by hosting the 16th HFSP Awardees Meeting on 10-13 July 2016, which will mark the first time the meeting is held in Southeast Asia.

Learn More

The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) is an international program of research support, funding frontier research on the complex mechanisms of living organisms. Research is funded at all levels of biological complexity from biomolecules to the interactions between organisms. Learn more about HFSP.

Instituted in 2009, the Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore (MBI) was created to identify, measure and describe how the forces for motility and morphogenesis are expressed at the molecular, cellular and tissue level. Explore MBI.